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“Lucky Dogs” Get Private Tour of Flying Dog Brewery

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A few posts back I had written about the Hubster’s wins in our local Battle of the Bubbles homebrew competition.  First place won the chance to have their beer professionally brewed at the Barley & Hops brewpub.  But SECOND place (aka. the Hubster) won a private tour with 10 select beer buddies at the Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Maryland.

We have since cashed in on that prize, and he now has his sights set on winning second place again NEXT year!  We had a rare and fantastic opportunity to spend half a day on a personal guided tour with two of Flying Dog’s top brewing experts.  For almost 5 hours, we had access to the brewery, professional brewing information, and of course Flying Dog beers.

Breakfast of Champions

The tour started off with a brewer meet and greet and liquid breakfast in Flying Dog’s tap room.  We became fast friends with our two tour guides – the two Bens.   Ben C. came from the banking industry in PA and worked his way through the ranks to become one of Flying Dog’s top brewers.  Ben S. is FD’s science guy, tasting coordinator, quality control lead and scrabble guru.  He has the awesome responsibility of ensuring that Flying Dog’s beers are always top quality.  I can personally assure you they are both doing excellent work!

We also tried a very unique beer called Keith’s Gose.  Unique because it is a sour beer brewed with Old Bay seasoning, intended to pair with steamed crabs.  I guarantee you’ve never tasted a beer like this before.  The only thing missing were the crabs.

The “Have it Your Way” Tour

It was our tour, our way, whatever we wanted to see, ask, or taste.  We went outside, back inside, past the grains, around the brew tanks, down to the experimental brewing operations, back up to the fermenters, stopped for a refill (fresh Raging Bitch Belgian IPA straight from the tank…ahhhahh), into the boiler room, over to quality control, across to bottling, on to kegging, upstairs to storage, past the hot room, into the hop cooler, back over to bottling, and finishing in the tap room for a potty break and refills.  Shew!  The homebrewers were in heaven, soaking in the beer data, tips tricks, stories, and snagging some recipe ideas.  The two Bens seemed happy to share their knowledge with an enthusiastic and fairly knowledgeable group.

Behind the Scenes Tidbits

They can recycle their yeast up to 15 or 16 times, depending on the beer.  And each generation spawns better and better beer.

There’s a hot room used to store beer at garage temps.  Ben S. has to taste these beers to determine the shelf life and durability of any given 6-pack after it’s been sitting in the garage all summer.  It’s a tough job, but at the end of the day, it’s free beer!

Artwork is EVERYWHERE in that brewery.  But the best artwork is on the labels.  All label art is designed by Ralph Steadman.  But the brewery art and murals are painted by local artists who have studied Steadman’s style.  Their reflective work appears in the entrance hallway leading to the brewery and in numerous locations throughout the brewery.

Who Spiked the Beer???

After potty breaks and refills, the two Bens led us into a conference room and Ben C. poured 6 beer samples in  labeled cups.  These beers were intentionally spiked with contaminants that produce common off-flavors in beer.  The point is, in order to produce good beer, it is equally important to know how beer should and should NOT taste.  It should NOT taste like creamed corn, green apple, butter, or circus peanuts (banana – unless its a hefeweizen).  All good flavors for jelly bellies, but not so much for beer.

Some large brewers intentionally produce these flavors because they appeal to certain tastes.  For instance, creamed corn is a flavor produced by DMS that actually appeals to a wide audience, and which you will find prevalent in some select and very well known commercial brews.

All Good Things Come to an End

We ended on a huge high note as Ben S. pulled out some specialty beverages from the secret stash, including side by side comparisons of their current and vintage Horn Dog Barleywine; their special Secret Stash Harvest Ale; vintage Gonzo Barrel Aged Imperial Porter (my personal favorite); The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale (stellar!); and side by side tastings of the almost released Fever Chocolate IPA, as it was supposed to taste vs. the production version.  Both versions of The Fever were great beers, but the chocolate flavors dropped out of the final packaged version, which resulted in a very tasty non-chocolate IPA. The original version is absolutely delicious and completely different – a full hoppy IPA with a smooth blend of chocolate flavor that totally works.

By the end of it all, we had two new beer buds in the two Bens.  We found our way to the gift shop, purchased current and vintage beverages and lots of swag, then hugged it out and made our way safely home.

I would like to give a huge shout out and thank you to the two Ben’s.  We can’t thank you enough for your gracious hospitality and generous sharing of beer knowledge.

Your Chance to Tour Flying Dog Brewery

Visit Flying Dog’s website to sign up for a tour or attend one of their offbeat events.  It’s a great time to hang out with friends, sample some stellar brews, and learn how beer is made by one of America’s finest breweries.

Cheers Beers!

Flying Dog Unleashes the Wildeman

January 20, 2012 2 comments

Great news for hophead fans of the Flying Dog Brewery!  They’re releasing their new Farmhouse IPA – The Wildeman – in Maryland, Virginia and DC.

I recently took a growler of the Wildeman Farmhouse IPA home, and let me tell ya, the hubster and I were in hoppy heaven. Mind you, I’m not a hophead, but I do love beers that have a good dose of hops balanced with mild malty sweetness. The Raging Bitch fits this profile, and so does the Wildeman. Its a golden hoppy beer with lots of flavor, the smooth drinkability of a farmhouse ale, and a really nice well balanced hoppy layer. Raging Bitch fans are gonna love it, and many of the brewery staff have already dubbed it their new favorite. Hey, I was there and heard it with my own ears!

The Flying Dog Brewery's Wildeman Cometh to MD, VA and DC

If you’re in the Frederick, Maryland area on Thursdays, come to Flying Dog for a tour and bring your growlers. They open the taps up for growler fills on Thursdays, and its a great time to get a sneak preview and stock up for the weekend on their scratch and pre-release brews, as well as their full time beer line up. Their Raging Bitch Belgian IPA, K9 Winter, Gonzo Porter, Gonzo Barrel-aged Porter (kick butt), and Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout are just a few of my personal favorites.  And just a tip – the Gonzo Imperial Porter and the Double Dog make a kick butt black and tan.  I can’t account for separation, but the flavor is unreal.  There are at least 10 or 12 taps to choose from so mix it up any way you like.

If you don’t already have a growler, you can buy one in their gift shop for $5. In fact, at $5 a growler, you might wanna stock up on those too.  They’re like shoes…you can never have too many.   Stick around for the tour, its a fun (and cheap) date night at $5 a pop – includes tokens for tastings and a commemorative Flying Dog glass.   I love our hometown brewery!

If you’re nowhere near the MD, VA, DC area but you still get Flying Dog, then be patient.  I predict the Wildeman will gain a very quick following and will eventually make an appearance in a liquor store near you.  But then again, life offers no guarantees.  Grab your buddies….it’s time for a road trip!

Cheers beers!

Camping and Beer at Cape Henlopen, DE

November 3, 2011 1 comment

Home away from home at Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware.

No year is complete without a camping trip to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  Cape Henlopen State Park is among our favorite camping spots, with bike access to gorgeous beaches, geocaching galore, hiking through the white sand dunes, a short drive to the downtown boardwalk, unlimited shopping, and of course some great beer destinations.

Beer and camping are like chocolate and peanut butter.  Although many state parks have banned alcohol in recent years, we’ve found that good behavior, coupled with inconspicuous hot pink iced tea glasses enable us to enjoy our vices without bother by the local authorities. So camping life is still good.

Cozy camper - fully loaded with room for two.

Camping supplies - important for survival in the wilderness!


Not Just About Camping

Cape Henlopen is a beautiful recreational haven for bikers, walkers, joggers, campers, hikers, geocachers, swimmers, kite flyers, surfers, bird watchers, fishermen, and the list goes on.

The beach is a quick bike ride away, and within a 5 minute drive is the main coastal highway with unlimited shopping.  If you need to stock up on wilderness supplies, then Cape Wine and Spirits in Lewes has the best beer selection at the best prices in town.

Five minutes further, and you’re in downtown Rehoboth Beach — home to none other the original DogfishHead Brewpub.  The Brewpub is a destination location for beer lovers and a must visit if you’re ever in Rehoboth.  It never disappoints and there’s always something limited on tap that can’t be found on the liquor store shelves.

Dogfish Head Brewpub in downtown Rehoboth Beach, DE

Lunch you say?

Head to the Pickled Pig Pub on the Coastal Highway – a great place to get pickled!  Top notch draught beer selection, and the best cuban sandwiches and fried pickled in town.  The locals are friendly, and there’s always a game on the tube.

Gordon’s Pond

After all that food and beverage, some activity may be in order.  We recently discovered Gordon’s Pond – an extension of Cape Henlopen.  A five mile trail leads you around the entire pond and along the beach back to your starting point.  Take the camera and capture some photos of the beautiful wetland marshes, full of wildlife and natural beauty.

Young, old, rain or shine, there’s no shortage of things to do in the Rehoboth Beach area, including Lewes (pronounced Lewis by the locals) and Cape Henlopen.  This community works hard to maintain it’s local presence and small town feel.  The area is warm, inviting, full of local events, and a great getaway for a long weekend or a relaxing week at the beach.  So enjoy your brews, and by all means…don’t forget the hot pink iced tea glasses!

Cheers beers!

Roy Pitz Brewing Co. – Chambersburg, PA’s Hidden Gem

Since reading an article in the paper about this small time operation, the hubster and I have been itching to visit the Roy Pitz Brewing Company.  Two years later, we finally ventured to Chambersburg, PA to check them out.  Our initial thoughts?  Wow!  Roy Pitz is a name to watch out for.

The Roy Pitz Story

The Brewery is owned and operated by Jesse and Ryan, two grade school friends who grew up in Chambersburg and have since continued their friendship and cultivated a shared passion for craft beer and brewing.  They experimented heavily with homebrewing in college, and their training in professional brewing began with jobs at Victory Brewing Company and Twin Lakes Brewing Company. Upon graduating with business degrees, the duo attended the Siebel Institute of Brewing Technology in Chicago, and Ryan continued on to study at the Doemens Institute in Germany.   He earned an International Degree in Brewing Science and returned to Chambersburg to join forces and open Roy Pitz Brewing Company with Jesse.

Who’s Roy Pitz?

According to an article from Hagerstown Magazine, “the brewery takes its name from the legend of a pair of quarreling conjoined twins local to Chambersburg named Roy and Pitz.”  The two brewers and longtime friends aren’t twins, but metaphorically speaking, they are attached at the hip, personally and professionally.  And so this relationship is conveyed by the conjoined twins represented in their logo.

The Brewery

The Roy Pitz Brewing Company was opened in 2008, has since tripled production and is currently looking to expand distribution into Maryland.  The brewery is housed in an old warehouse located off a remote alley on the edge of downtown Chambersburg.  If you’re not looking for it, you won’t find it.

They currently distribute kegs to about 30+ locations across Pennsylvania, and they only fill growlers at their Chambersburg location.  These guys are small potatoes…for now.  But the word is out in Chambersburg, as parades of locals crossed the parking lot and entered the small tasting room with empty growlers in tote.

Don’t expect sparkle and polish, the tasting room is a small, rustic, cellar-like setup.  It has character and foosball!   Wooden barrels emerge from the walls supporting plain wooden tap handles, and the small room is surrounded by a collection of growlers, memorabelia and merchandise.  Behind a glass wall lies the modest brewing operations filled with stainless steel tanks and a volunteer or two hard at work keeping the place well sanitized.

Liquid Art

One taste and you’ll agree, Roy Pitz’ beer is an art form.  Roy Pitz has coined themselves as “America’s Freshest Brewery”.  These guys brew using the highest quality ingredients, and they keep it local as much as possible, from the water to the produce to the hops produced from their own local hop farm.  There aren’t many breweries that offer customers the opportunity to taste and take home beers that were kegged from their fermenters that very same day.  That’s fresh!

Available beers are displayed in chalk on the overhead board, and the brewery is free and generous with their samples.  But many patrons are regulars who know exactly what they want, and some visit weekly to stock up for the weekend and ensure they don’t miss out on anything new.

Our server/jack-of-all for the day told us that the seasonals are outstanding and worth the trip.  After tasting the lot, I can assure you that the year round brews are every bit as outstanding as the seasonals, and yes, it was worth the trip.

Five beers were available on tap, four of which sold for $10 per growler, and one that sold for $15.  Most are available year round with one or two seasonals thrown in.

Our Two Growler Picks

Lovitz Lager (Watermelon Lager, Seasonal).  This has gotta be one of the best fruit beers I’ve ever had.  The aroma of fresh watermelon is intoxicating, and the fruit flavor permeates the beer.  The warmer the beer, the more fragrant, fresh, and apparent the watermelon flavor.  It’s clearly a well brewed lager, unfiltered, clean, and balanced.  I didn’t even feel compelled to add more watermelon to the beer.  It’s perfect as is.

Our server mentioned that Jesse and Ryan were at a beer festival in Philly pushing the Watermelon Lager as a contender for Best Summer Beer.  Best of luck guys!  It has my vote!

Lugwig’s Revenge (Smoked Lager, Year Round).  This is a smooth, rich, full flavored dark lager with a delicious smokiness that makes this a unique brow-raising experience.  Ludwig’s Revenge is unlike any beer I’ve had before.  Smoked beers can often be overpowering with smoke flavor (sometimes liquid smoke), or they’re watery with barely a hint of smokiness.  The primary flavors in Roy Pitz’s beers permeate without dominating, so the smoked flavor is apparent throughout the beer, but perfectly balanced with the smooth dark malts.  A rare treat of a beer.

We also had the privilege of sampling the Old Jail Ale (English Brown is delicious, mild, malty, flavorful), the Best Blonde Ale (amazingly well done Kolsch style beer with loaded with flavor and refreshingly crisp and citrusy) , and the Daddy Fat Sacks (malt and hops are incredibly well balanced, nice sweetness, full-bodied, full flavored).  Picking two to take home was not an easy task, every single beer was stellar.   Visit their website to find out what will be on tap during your visit.

Beer is Their Priority

Remember the name Roy Pitz and keep a watchful eye out for Jesse and Ryan.  The talent and skill of these two young brewers and their exacting attention to details are clearly reflected in their products.  Ignore their modest surroundings, their priority is the beer.  Our server mentioned an event where they displayed a note to customers apologizing for their lack of merchandise.  Their message read “we put our money into the beer”.   Enough said.

Cheers beers!
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Lunch at the Three Floyds Brewing Company and Pub

Our trip took us through Munster, Indiana, so we couldn’t pass up lunch a the Three Floyds Brewpub and Brewing Company.   This small craft microbrewery focuses on brewing smaller batches of top quality, unconventional craft beers that are primarily available throughout Indiana and the Chicago regions.

They’re also well known for Dark Lord Day, a “fantasy drinking event” held in honor of their Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout:

“A demonic Russian Style Imperial Stout, brewed with Intelligensia coffee Mexican vanilla, and Indian sugar this beer defies description, available one day a year in April at the brewery, Dark Lord Day.”

Three Floyds Brewing Company was founded in 1996 by two brothers and their dad, last name Floyd.  The brewpub later opened in 2005, and much of the pub food comes from their 3,000 square foot organic herb and vegetable garden.  Schedule your trip right, and take in a Saturday tour to learn more about the brewery and its history.

The beers all have bold eclectic names from various historical, medieval, comic book, cinematic, fantasy influences.  I had Robert the Bruce (7.0% ABV, 30 IBUs) –  a smooth, dark, roasted, malty scottish ale that was slightly dry, with medium body and mouth feel.  That’s my description, here’s how they describe it:

“A bold Scottish ale with a complex malty body derived from roasted and crystal malts balanced with just the right combination of hops. This ale pours a deep ruby color, has a sweet malty nose with layered caramel and roasted notes and a full body. Robust yet smooth, Robert The Bruce is a malt lover’s delight.”

We also tried the Alpha King (6.5% ABV, 66 IBUs), 3 Floyds’ flagship American Pale Ale – bursting with fruity, floral hop aroma, full flavored, and well balanced with the malt and the hops.  Here’s their take:

3 Floyd’s flagship beer, Alpha King is a big American pale ale that pours a deep amber with a creamy head. This ale is brewed with Centennial, Cascade, and Warrior hops giving it an intense citrus aroma and a crisp hoppy finish.

The pub is small and packed with locals, and the brewery’s artwork and image screams non-conformity – heavy metal spattered with pop art, overlaid with skulls and crossbones, with undertones of pop culture geekiness (e.g. Homer Simpson, Star Wars, and the projection of Japanese cinema on the bare walls).  It all adds up to a fun, quirky atmosphere for enjoying some finely crafted brews, paired with fresh unconventional food.

Cheers beers!

BeerVenture: New Glarus Brewing Company

New Glarus Brewing Company in New Glarus, Wisconsin has been on our beer bucket list ever since we saw them featured in American Beer – a super entertaining movie introduction to the top US craft breweries and brewers, incase you’re ever looking for some Friday night beer entertainment.

The New Glarus Story

New Glarus Brewing Company is owned and operated by Dan and Deb Carey – a married couple whose combined business management (Deb) and brewing (Dan) talents have created “one of the top 10 breweries in the world”.  The kicker?  New Glarus does not distribute outside the state of Wisconsin.  Pretty darn amazing considering this business originated as a gift from Deb to Dan.

You see, Deborah Carey single-handedly raised the capital and founded the brewery’s start-up as a gift to her husband – making her the first woman to found and operate a brewery in the US.  As president of New Glarus, she continues to be instrumental in the success and growth of the brewery, as she claims to do everything except brew the beer.

Dan on the other hand, is a master brewer who received his initial beer education in California then worked in a Munich brewery, and continued on to become production supervisor for Anhauser-Busch before entering into the start-up with his wife.  His beers have earned him an extensive list of awards and recognition, as well a case full of Great American Beer Festival medals.  He is truly a master brewer, and no one appreciates his brews more than the lucky natives of Wisconsin.

The Brewery

In 2006, Deb and Dave began construction on a state-of-the-art brewery that now sits high on a hilltop overlooking the small German-Swiss town of New Glarus.  The new building, which opened in 2008, is an artful reflection of the Swiss heritage that’s shared by the town and the brewery.

Self Guided Tour

The free tour is self-guided and leads visitors past the impressive copper mash tuns, ceilings lined with endless rows of metal pipes, giant fermenters, yeast propogation rooms, automated bottling lines, and a room full of brewery memorabilia, awards and bragging rights.  New Glarus is a pristine, high tech, efficient, well-planned brewing operation.  In fact, the place sounds like a well-oiled machine – quiet with little activity.  As we kept watch for oompa loopas, our speculations were soon deflated, as friendly humans occasionally emerged with a smile and a nod.


Tapping In

Step over to the taps and purchase a four beer sampler.  Between the hubster and I, two samplers covered the full tap list, which featured their year round top sellers and a few specialty brews.

  • Fat Squirrel – a nutty, toasty, malty brown ale.
  • Moon Man – a smooth and malty pale ale bursting with fragrant hoppiness.
  • Spotted Cow – this Wisconsin farmhouse ale is a light, full bodied, fruity session beer.
  • Stone Soup – a crisp and clean Abbey-style ale with spicy clove and ginger notes.
  • Golden Ale – an experimental trappist-style sour beer brewed in tribute to Orval.  This beer is brimming with wild yeast flavor – crazy good if you like super funky beer.
  • Wisconsin Belgian Red – a cherry ale brewed with a pound of cherries in every bottle.  This intense fruit beer is sweet and delicious with a tart cherry pie finish.

We even blended a small amount of the Golden Ale with the Belgian Red to create a mighty tasty sour cherry brew.

The Biergarten

Just outside the tap room is a scenic biergarten where visitors can take in the hilltop scenery as they savor their samples.

New Glarus Biergarten


Shop Around

The tour ends in the large gift shop and tasting room.  Shop around for t-shirts, glasses, local cheese and other Wisconsin souvenirs.  I recommend a “Real Women Don’t Drink Light Beer” shirt for the frauleins, and a stuffed Fat Squirrel for the kiddies.

The Beer Depot

Last stop – time to buy some beer!  Head down to the beer depot and pick out your beers.  Bottles can be purchased individually, by the six pack (four packs for imperial beers) or by the case.  Large bottles of the Raspberry and Belgian Red fruit beers are also ready for sale.  But keep in mind that most gas stations, grocery stores and liquor stores throughout the area sell New Glarus beer for virtually the same price in six packs and mix packs, so the advantage here is access to the harder to find specialty brews.

Worth the Trip

If you  have the opportunity to visit New Glarus, it’s worth the scenic trip off the beaten path.  Tour the brewery in your own sweet time, relax and enjoy some exceptional samples in the biergarten, and take home a collection of beers that are produced by a top ten world class brewery, but are only available in Wisconsin.

Hilltop View Overlooking the Town of New Glarus

Brewing TV – Episode 18: New Glarus Brewing Co. from Brewing TV on Vimeo.

Cheers Beers!

Frederick Beer Week Begins!

Today kicks off Frederick Beer Week!  Woo hoo!

This is a great week to be in Frederick, and this long overdue event is being done up right!  May 10th-14th will include lots of great beer events hosted by:

Here’s a list of the scheduled events:

Tuesday, May 10

  • Flying Dog Kick-Off with Chef Bryan Voltaggio – VOLT Restaurant in downtown Frederick
  • Battle of the Bubbles Homebrew Competition Judging – Barley & Hops in Frederick, MD
  • Heavy Seas Loose Cannon Cask Night – Bushwaller’s Irish Pub in downtown Frederick, MD
6 to 8 pm
Free Heavy Seas pint glass with your first beer!

Wednesday, May 11

  • Beer Judging Certification Program Tasting Class
  • Cocktail Beer Pairings – Brewer’s Alley in downtown Frederick, MD

Thursday, May 12

  • Alive @ Five Happy Hour – Carroll Creek Amphitheater in downtown Frederick, MD
5 to 8 pm
$5 cover, featuring Brewer’s Alley beer (added cost)
  • Heavy Seas Firkin Night – Mt. Airy Inn in Mt. Airy, MD
Time: 6 to 8 pm
Free Heavy Seas pint glass with your first beer!
  • Alive @ Five After-Party with Flying Dog – Greene Turtle in downtown Frederick, MD
7 pm to close
Flying Dog on draft and on cask
featuring an in-bar scavenger hunt with prizes

Friday, May 13

  • Flying Dog Sampling – Ye Old Spirit Shop 
5 to 7 pm
  • Frederick Tap Takeover – Bushwaller’s Irish Pub in downtown Frederick, MD
5 pm to close
Only Flying Dog, Brewer’s Alley, Barley and Hops, and Heavy Seas beer on tap!
  • Friday the FIRKteenth – Hollow Creek Golf Club in Middletown, MD,
6 pm to close,
Heavy Seas firkin and live music from Paul Pfau.

Saturday, May 14

  • Beer Brunch – Mt. Airy Inn in Mt. Airy, MD
11 am to 2 pm
  • Frederick Beer Week Brew Fest – at Stillpoint Farm in Mt. Airy, MD,
Noon to 6 pm – features beer from Flying Dog, Brewer’s Alley, Barley and Hops, and Heavy Seas, as well as live music by The Jug Band, The Polka Dots, and The Fieldhands; crafts, food, hay rides and more!

Even the County libraries are celebrating as they’ve placed all their beer-related books on display in honor of this glorious tribute to Frederick beer.   So come join us native Fredericktonians for an exciting week-long beer celebration!

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